Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years by many, if not all, religions. But why is it currently in the spotlight as one of the biggest health and fitness trends? Should you consider fasting for health or weight loss? What exactly are the benefits of fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has taken the spotlight as a safe, easy and highly effective way to reap the benefits of fasting. It took the spotlight in 2016 when Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries of mechanisms to reach autophagy. Now that's a word I'd like to hone in on as it's the most prized benefit of fasting.
Autophagy is a Greek word meaning "self-eating" which describes the body "eating away" or clearing out damaged cells and removing them from the body ultimately cleansing the body from debris and toxins found within our cells. If left there, these cells can cause inflammation and in turn, may lead to various diseases. Though fasting is the best way to induce autophagy exercise is also a way to reap the benefits.
"Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components and is therefore essential for the cellular response to starvation and other types of stress. After infection, autophagy can eliminate invading intracellular bacteria and viruses." (1)
Benefits of intermittent fasting
There are multiple benefits of IF which are shared below:
- Autophagy promotes metabolic homeostasis where our cells repair themselves, cleaning out toxins by digesting and removing dysfunctional proteins that build up over time. (2) This process could prevent degenerative diseases and cancers.
- Increase Growth Hormones up to five times, which can simultaneously aid in fat loss and muscle gain.
- Anti-aging Properties: "Cells also use autophagy to eliminate damaged proteins and organelles, a quality control mechanism that is critical for counteracting the negative consequences of aging." (3)
- Lower Insulin Levels makes stored body fat more accessible to burn off as energy.
EXTEND YOUR DAILY FAST
In truth, we all fast while we sleep which is why the word for the first meal of the day is 'break · fast.' We are literally breaking our fast that started the previous night. An easy way to get into IF is to take advantage of these sleeping hours by extending your fast. In doing so you are keeping insulin levels low and growth hormones high in order to burn fat while reaping all the other benefits of fasting. Though I don't recommend doing it every day, I think every other would suffice. I think it best to switch things up, so your body doesn't get used to the same program. Some people find that alternating days gives them a good rhythm.
who should fast
Not everyone is fit to fast, especially women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, diabetics, sugar-burners, the sleep-deprived, people who work out in excess as well as highly stressed individuals. Your body needs to be primed to fast safely and efficiently. The last thing you want to do is damage your body so if you do practice IF and experience any of the below, STOP and seek help from your doctor or nutritionist.
- weight gain
- muscle loss
- period loss
- excessive hunger
- brain fog
is fasting safe for women
Biologically, we all know that men and women differ. In women, biology cares most about fertility. When preparing to conceive, your body needs more nutrients to build up a reserve as a constant stream for the baby, whereas men simply provide the sperm and they have no further obligation to the growing fetus. IF can cause hormonal imbalances if not done correctly. (4) These hormonal imbalances can lead to the extreme and even cause infertility which is why it's so important for underweight, low-fat dieting women to eat healthy fats while in their fertility years. As a woman who practices IF, I don't ever reach a point of extreme hunger. I believe that's going too far which is why I choose to support my fasts with healthy fats, or fat fasting.
intermittent fasting the sensibly savage way
I've been intermittent fasting for about four years now, for the obvious reasons I mentioned above. I alternate between IF and eating a full breakfast so that my body isn't getting used to any particular way of eating. I like to take advantage of my fasting hours acquired during sleep to extend the fast up to 16 hours on most days. I use my buttery brew recipe to help me achieve this. The medium-chain triglycerides in the coconut oil and butter provide me with the energy I need as well as satiate me through it. It's important to note that the proteins found in nut milk, collagen and butter do not allow the body to reach true autophagy, thought it does allow the body to reap the other benefits of fasting. Knowing this, I've started cycling in days where I eliminate these three ingredients so I can reap the full benefits of autophagy and cellular cleanup. I also make sure to incorporate days consisting of bountiful breakfasts. I typically listen to my body as we all have an innate sense that tells us what we need for the day.
The two main things that get in the way of reaching autophagy are proteins and carbohydrates (sugar). Luckily fats don't affect it making them a great way to suppress hunger and provide your body with appropriate fuel which is recommend for any woman interested in intermittent fasting. Below are some items that can interfere with autophagy.
- whey protein
In short, intermittent fasting has many benefits when done safely. I plan to continue practicing it as more research comes out on the topic. It's quite fascinating. I'm interested to hear what you think so please share in the comments below.
I am not a doctor nor do I think you should follow any Sensibly Savage protocol without discussing with your doctor and getting his/her approval. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health.
In good health,